Com­mis­sion­ers ap­prove eco­nomic devel­op­ment board

Now seeks ap­pli­cants to fill tar­geted ar­eas

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­ Twit­ter: @SykesIndyNews

Only a few weeks ago, the Charles County Depart­ment of Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment un­veiled its five year strate­gic plan to the pub­lic and the Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers with a full as­sess­ment of the county’s pos­i­tives and rec­om­men­da­tions for im­prove­ments.

Now, the depart­ment is al­ready tak­ing its first steps to im­ple­ment some of the rec­om­men­da­tions.

The com­mis­sion­ers ap­proved leg­is­la­tion es­tab­lish­ing tar­get in­dus­tries for devel­op­ment in the county and the ap­pli­ca­tion process for an eco­nomic devel­op­ment ad­vi­sory board that Dar­rell Brown, the depart­ment’s di­rec­tor, said will “bridge the per­ceived gap” be­tween the county gov­ern­ment and the busi­ness com­mu­nity.

The goal of the ad­vi­sory board is to in­clude the pri­vate sec­tor more in govern­men­tal af­fairs and achieve “wealth gen­er­a­tion for Charles County and its res­i­dents,” ac­cord­ing to the res­o­lu­tion.

Hav­ing an ad­vi­sory board would en­able the county to eas­ily seek “in­de­pen­dent third party ad­vice” from mem­bers and cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties that may not have been gen­er­ated oth­er­wise.

“There’s a broader ben­e­fit of hav­ing an ad­vi­sory board,” Brown said. “Hav­ing busi­ness par­tic­i­pa­tion is ex­tremely im­por­tant.”

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the busi­ness and ed­u­ca­tion com­mu­ni­ties will put in ap­pli­ca­tions and be con­sid­ered by the depart­ment for an ad­vi­sor y board po­si­tion.

The depart­ment is tar­get­ing fed­eral con­tract­ing, health ser­vices, en­tre­pre­neur­ial devel­op­ment and re­search devel­op­ment as its four ma­jor busi­ness sec­tors in the county mov­ing for­ward. The ad­vi­sory board would likely have mem­bers in­volved in those sec­tors.

The “unique­ness” of the tar­geted in­dus­tries has to do with the cur­rent as­sets the county has, Brown said. They pro­vide a frame for the county to work in, he said.

Mar­cia Keeth, the depart­ment’s busi­ness devel­op­ment man­ager for re­ten­tion and ex­pan­sion, said the county still has to de­velop ap­pro­pri­ate in­cen­tives for those tar­get in­dus­tries. They can be struc­tured to be ben­e­fi­cial for the county’s tar­geted in­dus­tries, Keeth said.

Brown said he hopes to have ap­pli­ca­tions filled by the time the depart­ment hosts its next round­table dis­cus­sion in the fall.

Ac­cord­ing to by­laws es­tab­lished for the ad­vi­sory board, there will be 10 mem­bers rec­om­mended by the county’s eco­nomic devel­op­ment di­rec­tor and ap­proved by the county com­mis­sion­ers.

Each mem­ber will serve for a three-year pe­riod and mem­bers can reap­ply at the end of their term. At the re­quest of the di­rec­tor or county com­mis­sion­ers, board mem­bers can be re­moved prior to their term’s ex­pi­ra­tion.

The ad­vi­sory board will have at least four for­mal meet­ings per fis­cal year. Each meet­ing is sub­ject to open meet­ing laws and will be con­ducted fol­low­ing Robert’s Rules of Or­der.

There will be one mem­ber from Charles County Pub­lic Schools, one mem­ber from the Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land, one mem­ber from the In­dian Head Naval Sur­face War­fare Cen­ter, three mem­bers in cor­po­rate level man­age­ment in Charles County busi­ness in­side the tar­geted in­dus­tries and four cor­po­rate level man­agers of gen­eral Charles County busi­nesses.

Com­mis­sioner Ken Robin­son (D) said he is “sur­prised” that some­one from the health care in­dus­try is not re­quired to be in­cluded as a mem­ber of the ad­vi­sory board de­spite it be­ing one of the tar­geted in­dus­tries. Health care is on the rise in Charles County and around the coun­try, Robin­son said.

But Keeth said there will be at least three mem­bers from each des­ig­nated sec­tor in­cluded on the board, which leaves room for a mem­ber en­trenched in health care.

“Any em­ployer would be con­sid­ered a busi­ness here in the county. So some­body like a hos­pi­tal that wouldn’t be con­sid­ered com­mer­cial would cer­tainly still be con­sid­ered a busi­ness or em­ployer,” Keeth said. “Ab­so­lutely they’d be eli­gi­ble.”

Robin­son said the county is also rich in her­itage and tourism op­por­tu­ni­ties, so some­one from the tourism in­dus­try may need to be in­cluded on the board as well.

Robin­son said the depart­ment should en­cour­age peo­ple from all in­dus­tries to ap­ply for po­si­tions and not just tar­geted in­dus­tries. Some busi­nesses are not as vis­i­ble as oth­ers in the county, he said, and this could cre­ate bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties for them.

“It shouldn’t be lim­ited to what you see when you drive up and down the high­ways of Charles County,” Robin­son said.

Brown said the eco­nomic devel­op­ment depart­ment is “cer­tainly not op­posed” to hav­ing tourism and other in­dus­tries ap­ply, and he en­cour­aged it. How­ever, it de­pends on who ap­plies for the po­si­tions, he said, but other in­dus­tries are cer­tainly within the realm of pos­si­bil­ity.

Keeth said that was the ex­act rea­son the depart­ment left three slots open for other in­dus­tries, “be­cause we didn’t want to limit them ei­ther.”

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